Israel Rejects As ‘unjustified’ U.S. Criticism of West Bank Policy

Israel rejected today as “unjustified” criticism by the United States of the decision by the government of Premier Menachem Begin to establish three new settlements on the West Bank. In a statement issued following the weekly Cabinet meeting, the government denied the assertion by the State Department last Thursday that the move created “obstacles to constructive negotiations.

“The government of Israel expresses regret at the unjustified remarks made in the name of the U.S. government by the State Department spokesman concerning the carrying out of an Israeli government decision adopted on April 19, 1977 (by the former Rabin government), relating to the establishment of three settlements in Judea and Samaria,” the Cabinet statement said.

“The government of Israel cannot accept the assertion that Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel is regarded as illegal. The government of Israel reaffirms and states that settlement is not an obstacle to peace and will be no obstacle whatever in any negotiations for peace treaties.” Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor refused to answer any questions by reporters after reading them the statement.

The State Department last week not only criticized the establishment of the new settlements but also Israel’s decision to extend equal services to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In this connection the State Department expressed “regret” that Naor, when announcing the equalization decision, said that “Israel cannot annex the land of Israel for the people of Israel since it already belongs to them.”

WHITE HOUSE: NO COLLISION COURSE

(In Washington today the State Department had no comment on the Israel Cabinet statement. “Our statement of last week speaks for itself,” a Department spokesman said. “We have nothing to add to it.” But the spokesman did add: “As the President and other spokesmen have noted in the past, we do not believe that the long-standing close and friendly relationship between the United States and Israel are affected by disagreements of this type.”)

(The White House said Friday that the U.S. and Israel are not on a “collision course” and that the Israel-U.S. discussions about the West Bank should not be seen as destroying their relationship. Presidential news secretary Jody Powell, who made the statement in response to reporter’s questions about the consequences of the discord over the new settlements and the equalization policy, said “we expressed through diplomatic channels our concern, namely about recent steps in the West Bank.”)

Meanwhile, Samuel Lewis, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, in a meeting with Druze leaders in the Western Galilee, said that the U.S. will do nothing that would harm Israel or jeopardize its independence. He said Carter was ready to do anything needed to achieve peace in the Mideast.

NEW WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS PENDING

Shmuel Katz, an advisor to Begin on information and publicity, asserted in an Israel Radio interview yesterday that “In the case of Judea and Samaria and Gaza, territory that is part of our national heritage and belongs to the Jewish people, we do not want to give up any part of this territory. But, as we have said, if we shall find that in formulating a peace treaty–a real peace treaty, with all the paraphernalia of a peace treaty–that it is desirable or necessary to give up a part we shall naturally consider doing so. I think this is as far as we can go at the moment.” Katz said he believed this was also Begin’s view.

In newspaper interviews Friday, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan asserted Israel will continue to establish settlements on the West Bank. “The question is, how many and where?” he asked.

Dayan was asked about reports that he was for a slower pace on settlements than Agriculture Minister Ariel (Arik) Sharon, who heads the Ministerial Settlement Committee. “Like Arik, I also want unrestricted settlement wherever suitable land is available and there are settlers who want to take up residence there,” Dayan said. “Like me, he (Sharon) is also aware of the political implications. But as for the principle of settlement, I do not think the government will stop new settlements. The question is, how many and where?”

Dayan said while the U.S. attitude toward the Palestine Liberation Organization is changing it has not reached the point where the U.S. is “trying to force Israel to negotiate” with the PLO. He said he does not expect to meet the Arab foreign ministers directly when he goes to New York but will talk to them through his meetings with Vance and President Carter. He said that as long as negotiations–even indirect negotiations–continue, a new war will not erupt in the Mideast.

NEXT STORY